Film Creative Essay
Creative Exercise 1: Mise en Scene
Establishing Character (400-500 words)
For this exercise, you will take on the role of a production designer (and screenwriter), constructing a fictional character through describing the mise en scene of their bedroom. Who is this bedroom’s inhabitant? What do we know about them based on this space? Your description of the mise en scene will need to communicate this to the film crew who will shoot the project and to the audience who will see the completed film.
Do not tell us anything about this character. Your classmates/TA/Professor will need to be able to surmise who this person is by virtue of the mise en scene. You’ll need to negotiate:
· The character’s individual identity. Are they extremely tidy? Messy? Does this trait exist in friction with the usual associations viewers might have with setting (e.g., a grossly messy, beautiful, affluent suburban home, or an extremely luxurious dorm room)? What is their job (student, priest, artist)?
· Their place within larger social and cultural structures. Is this space specific to a country or region? Urban or rural? Are there particular cultural markers? How would you create an environment that’s recognizable to an audience, while avoiding stereotypes? Keep in mind Shohat’s contention that ethnicities in film are ubiquitous, if often submerged.
· The genre of the work this set would appear in. Is this science fiction? If so, what kind (space opera, art film)? Is it a gritty, realist portrayal of New York City life?
Examples that help understand:
Production designers give the viewer information about characters through the mise en scene. For example, in this Closer Look short about designing the character Villanelle’s apartment in Killing Eve(Writer: Phoebe Waller-Bridge, BBC America 2018), the crew discusses creating the Parisian apartment for a psychopathic assassin in a way that would make the audience understand her. The film encourages us to project a certain kind of character into the space, based on the mise en scene.
Another scene from the opening of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before(Dir. Susan Johnson, 2018; Production Designer: Paul Joyal) uses mise en scene to establish both character and genre.
Lara walks through a field in 19th-century costume; her voice over narration suggests that it’s a fantasy or parody.
The film cuts to a medium close up of her in her room, revealing that the prior scene was a fantasy brought on by the romance novel. But the decor offers some continuity between the scenes; it mimics a romantic, natural setting in the wallpaper.
The wider long shot gives us a view of the reality–a typically chaotic, messy teenager’s room. Think about how this shot establishes Lara as a character. Even if you haven’t seen the film, you might know something about the genre of the film, this character’s personality, and her family’s socioeconomic status.
You don’t have to create a teen or child character, but for other sources of inspiration, I would also point you to Adrienne Salinger’s photography book, In My Room: Teenagers in Their Bedrooms , which was photographed in the 1980s and ‘90s. Also, the James Mollison photography project, Where Children Sleep ,offers a comparative view of children’s sleeping spaces (not all of them are rooms) around the world. It’s a remarkable project in many ways, but you can also consider whether it falls into certain stereotypes and how you might avoid doing so in your work. Reflect on how social class, gender, culture, and personality are evoked through the decor and objects. You can also consider the number of film professionals who would be involved in constructing the fictional versions of these spaces.
Your submission will be a 400-500 word essay submitted directly on the forum.